Yatin Oza, Senior advocate and President of Gujarat High Court Advocates’ Association (GHCAA) has approached the Supreme Court against the suo moto criminal contempt notice issued against him by the Gujarat High Court.
The Gujarat High Court bench of Justices Sonia Gokani and NV Anjaria registered a suo moto criminal contempt case against Oza for raising “accusing fingers…against the High court, High Court Administration and the Registry by irresponsible, sensational and intemperate delivery in an interview”. On June 5, Oza had conducted a Facebook live briefing wherein he had alleged favouritism by the court and its administration for “lawyers of billionaires”.
In its June 9 order, the court reminded Oza of a 2016 contempt case against him [Yatin Narendra Oza Vs Khemchand Rajaram Koshthi ((2016) 15 SCC 236)] whereby the apex court had held, “We expect the appellant to constantly remind himself that the standing and dignity of the court matters to the nation and also to the collective.”
The bench observed that Oza made “serious allegations of corruption against the registry and also categorically alleged Forum shopping in no uncertain terms without any valid , significant or true basis.” It further said, “Instead of setting an example and moving forward towards the setting up of a better system of e Court which is the order of the day and the need of future, all possible attempts are made to doubt every step of the administration which is attempting to strike a balance of protecting the life in present times without closure of functioning of courts.”
Invoking its power to initiate contempt proceedings, the bench said, “When an attempt is made to shake this very foundation by creating disaffection, disrespect and also distrust in the working of the very Court, it is time for the court to exercise its extraordinary powers under Article 215 of the Constitution, of initiating actions for the contempt of courts against those who attempt to undermine the authority of law and bring disrespect and disrepute to this institution by scandalising the same.”
A notice has been issued to Oza under section 17 (dealing with procedure after cognizance) of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. The Indian Express reported that the notice is returnable by June 16 and in the interim the court has restrained Oza from making any “scandalous remarks or holding official meeting and passing any resolution or circulating any material or communicating directly or indirectly either himself or through others in relation to the subject matter of contempt.”
The bench noted that during his live press conference, Oza called the court a gambling den and an Institute which caters only to the litigants with means and money power. He further levelled the following allegations against the court’s registry:
(1) corrupt practices being adopted by the registry of the High Court of Gujarat,
(2) undue favour is shown to high-profile industrialist and smugglers and traitors,
(3) the High Court functioning is for influential and rich people and their advocates,
(4) the billionaires walk away with order from the High Court in two days whereas the poor and non VIPs need to suffer,
(5) if the litigants want to file any matter in the High Court, person has to be either Mr Khambhata or the builder or the company.
The bench has placed the matter before Chief Justice Vikram Nath for consideration whether to divest Oza from the designation of Senior Advocate and for assigning it to a bench of appropriate strength.
Yatin Oza has been advocating for the physical functioning of courts and for courts to reopen since they are only taking up urgent matters via video conferencing hearings. Following differences with the Association on the same matter, he had even resigned from the post of President of GHCAA but later withdrew the same after GHCAA rejected it. Oza had also written to the Chief Justice askimg him to call for details from the Registry of the high court on 40-70 matters filed by four or five advocates that have not been placed before any bench.
The Gujarat High Court order may be read here.